Wednesday, March 26, 2014

RUSSIA/UKRAINE: Yes, "Siberian Khatru"

Yes: "Siberian Khatru"

During my junior high and high school years in the late '70s and early '80s, I became something of a Yes fan, probably primarily because a few of my close friends were into them. I'm pretty sure I liked "Roundabout" prior to that anyway, but this more extended exposure hearing my friends' albums gave me an appreciation of some of their less radio-friendly fare. I grew to know all of their album titles -- I'm pretty sure I could even list them in the correct order -- even if I didn't care for all of them to the same degree as my friends. To this day, hearing such album names as Tales from Topographic Oceans will always evoke an immediate visceral reaction flashing me back to that period of my youth. Not that I progressed much farther into the prog rock scene than Yes, a (very) little Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and, later, some Rush. Even prior to the punk explosion, I could tell that almost by definition, much of prog rock was pompous and bloated. I only cared about the bands among them who managed to blend something of an appreciation for pop hooks into their pretentiousness. I didn't need to hear bands trying to rewrite classical symphonies for rock instrumentation; if it didn't have some form of hook, I quickly lost interest.

Which is why a handful of Yes's albums appealed to me: The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to the Edge, the three albums I ended up growing to love, all have their share of great hooks. And my favorite songs were scattered across the albums, so they ended up drawing me into the more long-winded songs that might not have otherwise grabbed my attention. "Siberian Khatru" was most certainly one of those, a sprawling epic of a song, much like its namesake geographical region, dominating a massive portion of Russia. The song, despite its nearly 9-minute length, moves along at a brisk pace and keeps coming back to Steve Howe and Chris Squire's hooky riff and Jon Anderson’s melodious singering. (Just made that term up!) I certainly don’t know how I’d feel about it if I hadn’t had the appreciation for the full Close to the Edge album (from 1972), but for those not familiar with the album, this fact might be of interest: “Siberian Khatru” is the shortest song on the album! Side 1 contains a single, 18-minute track, and Side 2 kicks off with a 10-minute multi-part song, making the third and final album track, “Siberian Khatru,” seem like a radio-ready single by comparison.

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